Posted by: Lister | September 30, 2007

James Akins on Gulf War 1

I’ve listed this under “conspiracy”, which is generally dismissive. But the source is a PBS interview with James Akins, who was an attache at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, 1963-1965, and later became the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

A few things struck me in the interview, but first the CT:

I was opposed to the war. I thought this could have been handled in the Arab context. He certainly had to leave Kuwait, no question about that. There wasn’t a single person in the entire region who thought that he should be allowed to incorporate Kuwait into his country. Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister, said right after the invasion that this has to be handled in the Arab context. Clearly Saddam must leave, but this also has to be handled in a brotherly Arab fashion, and Iraq needs to develop the port. There are two islands that block the entrance to the port. They are totally barren, not a single person living there, there’s no oil, no resources. In the interest of their brotherhood, Kuwait could lease part of these islands to Iraq so they could develop the port. When he came out with this, I said publicly that the problem is solved–that’s Saddam the face-saving device that he needs. He is going to accept it, and the problem will be finished.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. There was a call at a very high level, obviously to Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who was told that he should bring his brother into line. And he did.

Which government?

Our government–a very top level. I presume it was from the president, but I’m not entirely sure. It almost certainly was from the president. In any case, they got the call, Fahd reacted, and Sultan was disciplined. He made no further public statement for years after that. And the whole Sultan statement was ignored.

Why was that call made?

Because we didn’t want him to withdraw. We were already going forward preparing for a war, and we wanted to do what we ultimately did, and he would have screwed up everything. Statements had been made. I am sure that you’ve seen them on the record. Our nightmare in the last days was that Saddam would withdraw, and then we wouldn’t be able to go forward with our grand plans to destroy Iraq and the infrastructure.

[…] Iraq was clearly the most important Arab country. It had a highly intelligent, highly educated population. Illiteracy was essentially eliminated. That’s one of the good things that Saddam did for the country. It had the second-largest oil reserves in the world. It had fertile land, and lots of water. Iraq had a great future ahead of her, and I think still does.

I said until a few years ago that, within ten years after the end of the Saddam regime, Iraq would be knows as the Japan of the Middle East. I don’t think I should say that anymore. Too many people have left the country. The educational system has collapsed. Children have grown up in malnutrition. Their development has certainly not been normal. It’s going to take longer than ten years before Iraq can be restored.

A quick google hasn’t turned up Prince Sultan’s suggestion reported at another source.

Another thing that struck me was the death of Adnan Hamdani. Saddam had decided to invade Iran, just after the revolution, on the grounds that Iran would be weak and disorganised — having just removed from government anyone with experience.

There were Iraqis at the time who saw that this would be a fatal policy for Iraq, most notably Adnan Hamdani. He was then minister of planning, and a close personal friend of mine and coincidentally, of Saddam, as well.

Adnan said at a cabinet meeting, “Well, they may be close to disintegration now, but we know what happens when a country is attacked from outside. The Soviet Union was very unpopular inside Russia, but when it was attacked by Hitler, the people rallied, not around communism, and not around the Soviet Union but around Holy Mother Russia. If Iran is attacked, people who don’t like the mullahs are going to rally around the government because there’s a foreign attack. If the attacker plans, as it certainly does, to dislodge the oil-producing province of the country, everybody in the country is going to fight against Iraq forever. And Iran, I point out, is three times as big as Iraq. It’s a war that we can lose. It will be a disaster for Iraq.”

Whereupon Saddam killed him, Adnan, by himself. Not that he had him killed– Saddam killed Adnan himself. By all accounts, he went to the funeral and cried at the loss of his dear friend.

And later, during the war, after the Iranians had made statements that they were fighting Saddam personally rather than the Iraqi people, Saddam made an offer to his cabinet that he would step down.

The health minister at that point said, “We don’t want you to go, of course, and if you withdraw [from power] it should be temporary. Just go to your farm and wait there, and then when things are normal, then you can come back, but that maybe should be done.”

That wasn’t the sequence that Saddam wanted to hear. He wanted people to say, “You can’t possibly do this. You are Iraq, you cannot withdraw, and you must stay.” The health minister was not killed by Saddam, but he was executed, probably after torture. God knows. In any case, his remains were delivered to his family in a bag in small pieces, and no funeral was allowed.

I’m always skeptical of stories like that. I don’t see how Saddam could stay in power for so long if, everytime someone had bad news or a critical opinion, he would kill them. His security apparatus would crumble and become worthless. But, maybe that’s my ignorance talking. Maybe it’s easy to stay in power when everyone’s too frightened to give you a realistic assessment of your views.

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